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Monday, November 17, 2014

The Family of God expanded.

Two families work,  Chris and Maggie Hostetter along with Nate and Elizabeth Claasen work in the remote village of the Pal people in Papua New Guinea.  The family of God has been expanded because of the sacrifice of these two couples along with countless others who give so these people can be reached with the gospel.  I hope their story excites you because it sure does our Lord.  The angels of heaven are rejoicing over these new ones added to the family.  

The last lesson has been taught. On Wednesday we shared with them that Jesus went back to heaven after God raised him from the dead, and that he is going to come back again someday. It was the last in a long line of Gospel lessons we’ve been teaching every day since August, and God has accomplished great things through his word.

Several village leaders have given clear testimonies of salvation through faith, and many others have shared with us that they now understand what Jesus did for them and are putting their faith in him alone to save them. Men and women alike have told us and others about their new faith and freedom from sin with tears in their eyes and joy in their hearts.

Immediately after the last lesson a man and his wife each stood up separately before the group to profess faith in the Gospel, and they were both so overcome that they couldn’t find words to say (which is a very unusual thing in this culture!). Since then we have walked through villages and seen people packed into houses listening to a new believer share his faith and encouraging them to believe it, too.

We have seen people’s hunger for God’s word skyrocket. (As I write this Chris is in the office going through my translation of the book of Acts with some translation helpers who are devouring every word and enthusiastically discussing it among themselves.) We have seen and heard believers stand up in a crowd and preach against clinging to the old beliefs about sacrifice and spirit-worship. We have seen people flock to a neighbor’s house to ask questions and ask us to tell them more about what God says.

Praise God with us for the harvest he has allowed us to reap, and thank you for standing with us in prayer and financial support as we live here as God’s field-laborers. We know that the church has only just been born and that there is much to be done to bring it up to maturity, so please continue to stand with us as you have done.

And please continue to pray for those who have not understood or have chosen not to believe. We know that there are some who still yearn for the material blessings promised to them by those who profess to know the truth. There are some who have gone along with the crowd in saying they believe, but have privately held on to their ancient practices for warding off sickness and transferring power from generation to generation. Pray for us as we partner with the new believers who are their sons and daughters and parents and friends to reach out to them. We believe that God’s spirit is not done with them yet and we look forward to a second harvest, and a third, and a fourth.

Many of you have been praying for a specific Pal person or family and we want you to know that we will let you know as soon as we are able whether or not they have made a clear profession of faith in Christ so that you can know how to continue to pray for them. It may take us a while to be able to talk to each of them because of sheer numbers and because many of them have had to hurry off to the garden to make up for the time spent listening to the teaching! Please continue to pray for them as you wait to hear.

So what now? Everyone will gather again next Wednesday to hear the first lesson of “Phase 2″ in which we tell them that God has lots more to say to his followers and that we want to continue to meet with and teach those who have believed. We will also let them know that we will continue to teach Phase 1 review lessons so that if there are people who need or want to hear it again they will have another opportunity to hear and understand.

We are planning on meeting once a week for formal teaching time, first doing a quick review of the things they have heard so far and then teaching through the book of Acts. Please pray for us as we try to make it clear that there is a distinction between Christians and non-Christians; we don’t want to be giving non-believers false hope that they are entitled to the promises that God only makes to those who trust him for salvation.

We are so excited to be suddenly surrounded by men and women who have received the same spirit of God that we are all given and who will now be able to step in and help us with the work using the spiritual gifts that God has given them. It is an amazing thing to witness someone being born again. I encourage all of you to do anything you can to be able to witness it in others as you wait for Christ’s return.

It was this kind of story that challenged our hearts to leave behind the comforts of home so others could hear.  Knowing how hard this kind of ministry is gives us common ground when we meet with couples coming home for a furlough after a few years serving in villages just like this one.  For those of you who get the chance to meet a missionary, listen to their story, they need to tell it and quite frankly we need to hear it.    Christmas is coming, the best gift we can give is telling someone about Jesus and the free gift of salvation.